October 26, 2010

Form factor

Two hour wait at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport for my Bombay flight last week, the gate area began to fill up with Indians heading home. I was about to go looking for some last minute gifts in the always overpriced dutyfree shops when an airport official arrived and advised us all to get into line for passport and security checks. So we did, a long straggly line in which I was about 40 people from the front. Longish wait, I knew, but there was plenty of time and I was in no hurry.

Strangely though, it must have been about 70 people who went before me. Because with almost every step I took, folks from behind sidled past and ahead of me, and further ahead still. Some simply walked past the line, offered their passports and walked in.

Same story repeated in the line for security. Same story repeated in the line to board.

One man who had wormed past like this in the first line ended up in the seat next to mine. I wasn't particularly kindly disposed toward him, as you can imagine. Still, it wasn't for that reason that I dozed off as we rose into the air, and when I woke an hour later I opened my book and began reading, knowing I had a long dull flight ahead.

Then the airhostess came through handing out Indian immigration/customs forms. I filled mine, stuck it in my pocket and reopened my book. But the man beside me had been watching me at work. Now he waved his form under my nose, asking me in broken Hindi to fill it for him. I did. Then he produced his wife's form, she sitting next to him. I filled that one. Then he produced her sister's form, she sitting next to the wife. I filled that one too.

Word of my expertise at filling these customs forms had apparently spread far and wide through the plane, because after a few minutes the woman in the row in front turned back and passed her form through the gap between the seats. Then her husband's. Then the woman across the aisle from me waved her form at me. Then her husband sitting in the window seat beyond her. Then a guy appeared at my shoulder with another form. Then he came again and yet again with more forms, at least one of which was a form I had already filled earlier and he (a little too aggressively, I thought) asked me why I had ticked certain boxes, or had written certain things.

So no, it actually wasn't such a dull flight after all. My book, though, it stayed unread.


Anonymous said...

I suppose the well in-formed person deserve respect and the opportunity to serve. Did you go all the way and sign the forms also? What, if anything, does this system of social trust say about the protagonists, deuteragonists, and tritagonists? After all your errors could have created form-idable barriers for them.

Sumedha said...

Did they at least ask nicely? :)